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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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The urgency of the need for an investigation of the economic aspects of potential alternative policy measures that could be proposed to bring about a more near equality of private and social costs, and most of all the need for a substantial refinement of the analysis and identification of the micro-economic distribution of the net negative externalities resulting from high fertility, could hardly be overemphasized.* Until such advances are forthcoming, the economic foundations of any proposed policy based on the externalities argument will remain unsatisfactory, despite the evident all-pervasive presence of such effects in developing, as well as developed, economies.
The main conclusion that emerges from this survey is that virtually unqualified economic endorsement can be extended to efforts to ensure the freedom of families to determine their own fertility. Such a policy would require
(a) governmental action for removal of positive restrictions on birth control;
(b) provision of information that families need to make intelligent choices;
(c) provision of the best available means for family planning; (d) development of improved means of contraception. For those who assume that free individual choices add up to a social optimum and for those who hold that society should accommodate its actions to the sum of individual choices in any case, this policy is the best, by definition. For those who hold that these assumptions are unrealistic because free individual choices may result in excessive fertility for society as a whole, the policy is merely a step forward but certainly one in the right direction. Although there will be disagreement whether or not population policy should go "beyond family planning," there should be a broad general agreement on the desirability of the policy per se.
Indeed, differences of opinion on family planning seem to center primarily on the effectiveness of the approach: a technical question involving no differences of principle. In what is probably the severest criticism in print of family planning as a population policy it is argued that, apart from lack of motivation, the policy does not work because the population does not know the means of contraception; because poor people are unable to purchase contraceptives and keep an adequate stock of them; because production facilities that would ensure production of contraceptives in sufficient quantities are lacking in the poor countries; because the import of contraceptives is expensive and is never regular; because there are no adequate channels for the commercial distribution of contraceptives; because contraceptives that are available are inefficient, whereas effective means are expensive and their use is repugnant; and because there is an inadequate network of public health facil-
*0n this subject see in particular (25-26).